Facts About the Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of GERD

woman with heartburn
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If you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it's important to get the facts about the medical condition. Learn about the common symptoms of GERD, the individuals most likely to develop the disease and the best way to treat it with the following list. The more knowledge you have about GERD, the better your chance of effectively managing it.

How GERD Develops

GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is located between the esophagus and stomach, is weakened or opens inappropriately. This allows acid and other stomach contents back into the esophagus, causing irritation.

Common Symptoms

Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. Other symptoms of GERD include a persistent sore throat, hoarseness, chronic cough, asthma, chest pain, or feeling like there is a lump in the throat.

GERD also causes pain, as the refluxed stomach acid triggers nerves in the esophagus. The acid can cause damage to the lining of the esophagus, which in turn results in discomfort.

Who's Most Likely to Have GERD?

GERD affects approximately 19 million Americans. It can affect anyone from babies to adults. Conditions such as obesity may up the odds one will develop GERD.

Pregnant women are also at particular risk of developing the condition because as their babies grow, increased pressure is put on the stomach.

This heightens the chance of stomach contents being forced up into the esophagus. Moreover, rising hormones during pregnancy soften the ligaments in the lower esophageal sphincter, leading to acid reflux.

The Link Between GERD and Other Health Problems

GERD is linked to other medical conditions. These include asthma, hiatal hernias, the connective tissue disease scleroderma and ear and sinus infections (mostly in children).


Eating certain foods and drinking certain beverages can trigger GERD symptoms. People with GERD typically avoid acidic drinks and food, such as tomato sauce or orange juice. Spicy foods such as hot sauce can also cause GERD symptoms.

Some drugs taken for other medical conditions can trigger GERD symptoms as well. If you're concerned a medication you're taking is making your symptoms worse, consult with your doctor to find out if that's the case, and try to identify alternative medications you can take instead.

How Lifestyle Changes Help

Lifestyle changes can often reduce GERD symptoms. These include dietary changes, modification of certain lifestyle habits and how you sleep at night. Elevating the head of the bed is a common way to ease GERD symptoms in the evening.

Wearing tight-fitting clothing around the waist and abdomen, such as shaping undergarments, can cause an increase in abdominal pressure, which can, in turn, trigger GERD symptoms.

Walking can help ease GERD symptoms, especially after meals. Good posture can help with GERD symptoms while sitting up straight allows gravity to aid digestion.

GERD Complications

Chronic acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can lead to serious complications.

The constant presence of refluxed acid in the esophagus can cause conditions such as Barrett's esophagus, erosive esophagitis, esophageal strictures, and even esophageal cancer.

Take control of the condition now to prevent these adverse outcomes from occurring.


Facts & Fallacies about Heartburn and GERD American College of Gastroenterology